By the time you’re reading this magazine, we’ll have passed a host of HIV and AIDS awareness days that recur each year, from Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in February to ones honoring women and girls, Native Americans (both in March), Youth and National Transgender HIV Testing Day (both in April), and, coming June 27th, National HIV Testing Day. There are plenty of awareness dates, including those aimed at long-term survivors, gay and bi men, Asian-Americans, and more. But what the awareness dates on a calendar don’t tell you is the cycle of media information that happens for each one. Many TV news programs and local newspapers cover HIV only on one of those particular dates each year—whichever one they find most important. For a magazine like Plus, we cover it all, but we also hear about the aftermath. Take June’s National HIV Testing Day: everyone from pharmacies, community centers, and HIV organizations get the word out about HIV testing. Most will see a spike in the number of HIV tests done in the ensuing weeks until it drops off, and in most cases, goes back to the usual daily average.
That’s where Plus comes in. When more people test, more people learn of their HIV status — negative or positive. Not all will test positive, but some will. If you have just been diagnosed, this issue is for you. While there can be no real answer to “Why me?” that’s anything near as deep or meaningful as most people are seeking, we assure you that becoming HIV-positive is a virological process, not God’s wrath for having sex or using drugs.
We can offer you answers to the questions that others have asked when they were in your shoes. Sometimes the answers are easy, like the ones to these questions: Can I still have sex? Can I still have kids? Will anyone love me? Do I have to use plastic utensils from now on? In order, the answers are yes, yes, yes, and good god, no — and the environment thanks you for sticking with silverware.
Each year as we compile our special Just Diagnosed section, we also attempt to dispel myths and confront stigma. What I’ve learned over the years from readers is that at some point this list won’t be for you. It will all have become old hat to you. If that’s the case, consider giving this copy to someone who can use it, whether they are a newly poz friend or your own relatives who still (quite ridiculously) believe they can contract HIV from sharing cups and forks, or kissing. (By the way, neither of those have ever been true.)
What myths or stereotypes are you battling at home or at work? Tell us and let us explain why many people are still getting it wrong—and what we can all do about it. In the meanwhile, don’t forget it is summer. Get out in the sun and soak up some Vitamin D, get your body moving, and enjoy life a little bit more. The sun is finally out again!